College explores dining hall options

By Max Schochet – 1851 Staff

There may be some new food options for Lasell in the near future. A Request for Proposal (RFP) has been issued to get bids from other dining service providers.

The Home Station (pictured) is revamping its appeal to students, along with other features in the dining hall. Sodexo, Laser’s dining service, may be replaced with another food vendor following the end of the academic year. Photo by Ryan Fitzgerald

“It’s probably closer to 25 years since we actually issued an RFP for dining services,” said Diane Austin, Lasell College Vice President of Student Affairs and a member of the RFP selection team. “And that is probably reflective of the fact that we felt like we’ve had a good partnership with Sodexo.”

Sodexo, a French food service and management company, is Lasell’s current dining service. General Manager Mairead Van Heest has been with Sodexo since 1981 and with Lasell almost nine years.

“I’ve always felt I’m a part of the Lasell College community,” said Van Heest, who confirmed Sodexo will be rebidding.  “At first it feels personal, but then you have to realize it is a business decision. You now just have to work harder to retain the business. So hopefully, at the end of the day, it will be us who will continue to provide services here.”

Austin says RFPs are issued by colleges and universities periodically for all contract services. “Even when you have the best relationship and things are going incredibly well and you’re very happy with the service you’re receiving, it is silly not to go and take a look and see what’s out there both in terms of content, quality, and creativity of the service and certainly price is part of that too,” said Austin.

In mid-February, vendors will have the opportunity to visit Lasell and ask questions to the dining service selection team made up of students, faculty, and staff at Lasell.

Bids are due by March 3 and members of the selection team will review proposals and narrow down the candidates.

“In the demonstration of their creativity, imagination, and experience in the industry, we anticipate that a review of exciting bids will put us in an excellent position to make a decision that will serve our campus community well in the years ahead,” said Mike Hoyle, Lasell College Vice President for Administration and Finance, CFO, and member of the selection team.

Hoyle says criteria like, taste, service, quality, customer service, hospitality, and cost are all important. Austin said, “We want, ideally, someone who has a track record and good reference and [can] be receptive to feedback and will be good working partners.”

In April, there will be an on-site visit to the vendors’ facility to see how it functions. By the end of April to early May, final candidates will come to Lasell for a presentation.

“We’re hoping to extend an offer and have that accepted by June 1,” said Austin. “Ideally this gives the chosen vendor the month of June to get ready for July 1,” said Austin, adding that if Sodexo wins the bid it will be an easy transition. If it’s another group, it gives the current vendor time to finish up and transition to the next vendor.

So what has the feedback been for Sodexo? It comes from students, surveys, and the SGA Food Service Committee that helps channel comments. “We all hear complimentary accolades of the work that Sodexo and its team does in serving the community,” said Hoyle.  “We also hear about areas of improvement that they can make and I think some of the students have seen some changes in Valentine this semester based on that feedback.”

Van Heest says Sodexo hears the feedback and is always trying to improve. “One thing about the university or college environment is that every year a whole new group of students come in,” said Van Heest. “Every year you have whole new tests. So we have to give a wow factor to our food service. We’re always looking for innovation and we’re always looking to be the leader in our food service. And we’re always looking to bring more to the students in different ways.”

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